Month: June 2020

June 23, 2020

Palouse City Council

Regular Council Meeting held at Hayton Greene Park due COVID-19 restrictions

June 23, 2020

CALL TO ORDER:  Mayor Cook called the Council Meeting to order at 7:00 PM.

 

ROLL CALL:  Council members present:  Mary Welcome; Tim Sievers; John Snyder; Jim Fielder; Steve Alred; Katie Cooper. Staff present: Police Chief Jerry Neumann; Police Officer Terry Snead; City Administrator Kyle Dixon; & Deputy Clerk Ann Thompson.  Councilmember Cooper MOVED to excuse Councilmember Slinkard’s absence. Councilmember Sievers seconded. Motion carried.

 

APPROVAL OF MINUTES:  Councilmember Alred MOVED to approve the minutes of the Regular Council Meeting of June 9, 2020. Councilmember Fielder seconded.  Motion carried.  Councilmember Snyder MOVED to approve the minutes of the Special Council Meeting of June 18, 2020. Councilmember Alred seconded. Motion carried.

 

OPEN FORUM ON FLAG POLICY:

The Lions Club have hung flags on Main Street for years and it’s a great benefit to the city and very much appreciated. However, in recent weeks the city has received numerous letters raising concern over the Thin Blue Line flag being allowed to hang. Palouse doesn’t have a clear policy over displaying flags so may be construed as a public forum. Policy & Administration Committee is researching best practices to move this matter forward. Mayor Cook issued a cease & desist order to Chief Neumann from removing anything from light poles until we have a policy in place. We are here to solicit public comment regarding a flag policy. The goal is to take this feedback into consideration while a formal policy is crafted.

 

The following people spoke aloud during the open forum, in no particular order: Libby Akin, Emily Akin, Jessie Twigg-Harris, Sarah Bofenkamp, Kurt Brantner, Damon Estes, Carly Schoepflin, Michael Echanove, Jens Hegg, Ann Barrington, Brad Pearce, Ken Alsterlund, Dave Caudle, Leslie Sena, Lynn Gearhart, Caleb San Miguel, Darrel Goertzen, Sinclair Watkins, Jerry Hibbard, Adam Cochran.  Additionally, CA Dixon read aloud letters from Katryna Newman, Claire Echanove, Shandra Bohn, and Ron & Lana Redman, which were submitted for the forum.

Upon completion of the open forum at 8:11 pm, Councilmember Alred MOVED to take a 10-minute recess. Councilmember Snyder seconded. Motion carried.  Meeting readjourned at 8:23 pm

PUBLIC WORKS REPORT:  Supt. Griffin submitted a written report.

POLICE REPORT:  Chief Neumann submitted the police call log.

CITY ADMINISTRATOR REPORT:

The city has been looking into alternatives to address the condition of the Native Plant Park in a timelier fashion. We continue to receive complaints on a regular basis. CA Dixon invited resident Jamie Gaber and Palouse Conservation District representative Garrett LaCivita to discuss how we can team up to expedite improvements.

Jamie explained about some of the plantings and progress thus far. Had a good survival rate from last year’s plantings. Currently have people working on signage to continue educational efforts with species identification, etc.  They’re also hoping to wire cage all the plantings and complete the path. Once that’s done, mowing can be done around the wire cages and signs. Mowing native grasses will be better if done after July 1 which eliminates risk to nesting songbirds and damage to grasses. The public would like to see functional pathways, river access, weeds cut down, and manicured to some degree.  Jamie could use more volunteer help.

The city received two bids for our annual road oiling: BST Surfacing $10,564.40, & Mort’s Dust & Erosion Control $17,248.00.  BST has bid the lowest cost for the past several years and they do good work. Supt. Griffin recommends council accept their bid. Councilmember Sievers MOVED to accept the low bid from BST Surfacing. Councilmember Cooper seconded. Motion carried.

RV Park reservations have increased significantly since Phase 3 approval.

Palouse Chamber has ordered a first round of masks/PPE from the state appropriation from COVID-19 related expenses. CA Dixon will also be reaching out to other entities (i.e. local food bank, FIRE/EMS) to determine needs and eligibility for these funds.

OLD BUSINESS:

Wastewater Operator Contract with Garfield:  Palouse doesn’t have a Level II certified operator in Palouse. Garfield has one. This agreement allows us to trade with Garfield eight hours of our public works services for eight hours of their Level II certified operator services.  Language is also in the contract which allows for us to call on Garfield in the event of sewer facility emergencies. Traded hours are 1:1 with no exchange of funds. This will satisfy ECY’s requirements.  Councilmember Alred MOVED to adopt the contract. Councilmember Fielder seconded. Motion carried.

Palouse Cove Sidewalk Bid Documents:

Engineer Munir Daud has continued to price alternatives to remain within budget for our project. His recommendation is to proceed with bids without the block wall and the pedestrian lights (which would be added later). We are still in discussions with property owner in Harvest Loop development to better utilize the terrain to avoid the block wall. We can also give contractors three months to finish the project, to better work with competing schedules, which should also result in a lower bid. If the bids still come in too high, we reserve the right to reject all bids. CA Dixon is still working on additional funding opportunities. The original grant of $200,000 received for this project does not need to be spent until March of 2022. Even then, in light of current events, an extension of this deadline would likely be approved.  It is the engineer’s and CA Dixon’s recommendation to put a call for bids for this project ASAP. A determination to proceed to construction can be made after a review of submittals.  Councilmember Sievers MOVED to approve the call for bids. Councilmember Welcome seconded. Motion carried.

COMMITTEE REPORTS/REQUESTS: 

Personnel, Chair Snyder- has some action items forthcoming.

Policy & Administration, Chair Cooper-

Flag Policy Discussion: Committee has met twice with attorney. They have done a lot of research on this issue.  There are three options: 1) The city could take no action, effectively ‘opening’ the street lights as public forums without regulation, whereby anything could be posted or hung at any time by anyone. 2) Adopt a policy that applies time, place and manner restrictions. This would create a permitting process that would require pre-approval to hang flags/banners at predetermined places and times. The city would not be allowed to regulate content. 3) Adopt a policy that ‘closes’ the public forum. Only city owned flags and banners would be allowed on city owned property to be hung only by authorized city personnel. They will have another committee meeting this week to consider all the input heard today and will present their recommendation to council at the next regularly scheduled council meeting.  There are no other special meetings scheduled at this time.

Joint Fire Board, Chair Fielder-

There were four fire calls and two trainings in May. There were five EMS calls in May: 3 city, 2 non-residents. Also had two EMS trainings in May.

ALLOW PAYMENT OF BILLS:  Councilmember Sievers MOVED that the bills against the city be allowed.  Councilmember Snyder seconded. The motion carried.

 

The following checks are approved for payment:

Claims Paid      6/23/2020          Ck. #10917-10931 & EFT           $33,251.80

ADJOURN:  Councilmember Welcome MOVED to adjourn. Councilmember Alred seconded the motion and the motion carried.  The council meeting adjourned at 9:00 PM.

 

APPROVED: ________________________________   ATTEST: ________________________________

June 9, 2020

Palouse City Council

Regular Council Meeting

June 9, 2020

Via Zoom Videoconferencing

 

CALL TO ORDER:  Mayor Cook called the Council Meeting to order at 7:01 PM.

 

ROLL CALL:  Council members present: Mary Welcome; Bill Slinkard; Tim Sievers; John Snyder; Jim Fielder; Steve Alred; Katie Cooper. Staff present: Police Chief Jerry Neumann; City Administrator Kyle Dixon; & Deputy Clerk Ann Thompson.

 

APPROVAL OF MINUTES: Councilmember Alred MOVED to approve the minutes of the Regular Council Meeting of May 26, 2020. Councilmember Slinkard seconded. Motion carried.

 

PUBLIC WORKS REPORT:  Supt. Griffin submitted a written report.

Supt. Griffin thanks the Palouse FD and residents Jeremy Hodson and Monty Nearing for their assistance with storm cleanup.

 

POLICE REPORT: Chief Neumann submitted a written report.

-Chief Neumann also thanks those who helped out with storm cleanup.

-Chief has ordered the speed reader radar sign to be placed on HWY 27 coming in to town from Pullman. It will have the capability to record and monitor all speeds detected over a period of time. It will have customizable and changeable messages.

 

CITY ADMINISTRATOR REPORT:

While we originally believed that the Wastewater Facility Plan that was submitted back in March would have a fairly quick turnaround time, we received word yesterday that it is still a few weeks out. Based on that conversation, we are not expecting comments back from them until sometime in July. They have a long window to review and provide comments. No specifics on their review thus far has been reported.

 

Our project engineer MD&A is concerned with the cost of materials for the Palouse Cove Sidewalk Project. We are working through these overages and vetting alternatives. We will present the bid documents to council once we have a more palatable budget.

 

We have received several complaints regarding the appearance of the Native Plant Park. In spring of 2019 [April 23 & May 14, 2019 minutes], resident Jamie Gaber asked City Council for authorization to introduce additional native plants to the area, add bark and other improvements, and to perform maintenance. Council granted her approval provided additional support was not required of our PW Staff. While we have seen some sporadic activity at the park, regular maintenance and upkeep have not happened. CA Dixon spoke with Jamie today and she reported that she has partnered with the Palouse Conservation District to finalize improvements to the Native Plant Park. On Thursday, June 11th PCD will be out laying material and spreading bark on the pathway. They will also finish clean-up of the overgrown portions of the park. She reports they have planted roughly 100-150 plants. PCD is currently working on plant signage. A portion of the park has been dedicated to a blooming garden.  CA Dixon will follow up with Gaber and PCD regarding progress and will report to council. If improvements do not proceed as planned, council may authorize an alternate solution.  A huge thank you to Dennis and Vickie Griner who resigned in March from their years of volunteering time, labor, and equipment keeping the Native Plant Park looking nice. Our PW Staff cannot take this project on. If there is anyone in town that would like to lend their time to maintaining this area once it has been cleaned up, please contact City Hall.

 

We had originally planned to have the updated Wastewater Operator Interlocal Agreement with Garfield ready to review and sign tonight. Our Attorney has been on National Guard duty, so we do not have a timeframe yet on when that will be presented. The deadline to have an agreement in place is in August so the timeline will not be an issue.

 

Water/Sewer committee met last week to continue the discussion regarding updating/increasing water and sewer hookup fees. These updates will be presented to council for further discussion when finalized by the attorney

 

The Personnel Committee are in the process of reviewing applications for the PW Superintendent position.

 

Whitman County has transitioned into phase 3 of reopening. Part of phase 3 allows gatherings of up to 50 people. Mayor and Council will need to determine if/when it is safe and appropriate to resume in-person council meetings.  CA Dixon will continue to assess how and where council meetings will be held moving forward. Masks will likely be required if/when we go back to in-person meetings. City Hall will open to the public on Tuesday, June 16th and will resume normal business hours. Public restrooms at the parks will open tomorrow.

 

NEW BUSINESS:

Ordinance No. 992: Budget amendment for Coronavirus Relief Funds and Palouse Cove sidewalk project:  Affects Current Expense Fund and Arterial Streets Fund. The coronavirus relief funds administered by the Dept Commerce will reimburse any costs related to COVID-19 prevention and costs associated with economic shutdown. The Palouse Cove sidewalk project is funded by a $200,000 dollar grant from TIB, which was moved from and ending balance to an expenditure line item for construction. Councilmember Cooper MOVED to adopt Ordinance No. 992 as written. Councilmember Fielder seconded. Motion carried.

 

COMMITTEE REPORTS/REQUESTS: 

Streets, Properties, & Facilities – Chair Sievers:

-We’ve been working with FastSigns for signs at the pool. Councilmember Sievers is working on getting their bid more in line with our needs and budget.

-Chair Sievers met with city staff to discuss how we will move forward at the pool this summer with regards to allowing out of town patrons. Maximum capacity at the pool is normally 112, so at 50% it will be 56. From data gathered last year, having more than 50 patrons was rare (3 instances), and was not seen at all in June. If current trend holds, Whitman County will transition to Phase 4 of reopening allowing for full capacity at the pool before the end of June. We will monitor usage closely as the pool opens and evaluate daily. At this time, the pool will open as normal, but if we see unexpected usage and wait times due to max capacity, pool committee will reevaluate and propose appropriate restrictions.

 

Personnel – Chair Snyder: Committee has two big things coming up: 1) vetting process for employee review/salaries/raises/etc. & 2) hiring Supt. Griffin’s replacement.

 

Water & Sewer – Chair Slinkard. Committee met to finalize the ordinances for the cost increase to hook-up fees for water and sewer as well as the code change to year-round charges for service, regardless if active or not. This was introduced in November but due to Covid, we’ve pushed the effective date from July to September. There will be a public hearing prior to voting on proposed changes. The ordinances are with the attorney for review.

 

MAYOR’S REPORT:

For years the Palouse Lions Club has hung the US flags on Main Street for Memorial Day, Flag Day, Veterans Day etc.,  About five years ago they wanted to add flags to honor those who protect & serve so they added flags of our five military branches and the flags of our first responders: fire, EMS, and police which is the national “Thin Blue Line” flag.  This particular flag has unfortunately been adopted by “Blue Lives Matter” a national countermovement to “Black Lives Matter” .and now represents a lot of hurt and harm to people of color. The city recently received letters from four residents asking that the “Thin Blue Line” flag be removed.  The city would like to find some kind of mutually agreeable solution that upholds the 1st Amendment but also looks out for and is sensitive to people of color.  Palouse wants to honor the police but also want to make it known that prejudice and hatred are not tolerated here. CA Dixon offered to have the city purchase an alternative police flag to replace Thin Blue Line flag. Agreement for potential alternatives could not be reached. Lions Club “see no reason to remove a flag that honors our local and national law enforcement officials”.  Council discussed in-depth the situation.

 

Flag Day is this Sunday. The city wants to come up with a resolution to address this in the interim and one in the long-term.  Ultimately, the city has no flag policy in place.  Without a policy we’re walking dangerous ground. There’s no legal obligation to fly any flags so until there is a policy, we can opt to not hang any but no one wants to see that. This is a very complicated and sensitive issue. The city is responsible for created equitable policy. City does not just represent the majority.

 

Councilmember Alred MOVED to suspend any flags being flown until there is a flag policy adopted by the city. Councilmember Sievers seconded.  Motion failed.

Councilmember Slinkard MOVED that city council respectfully ask the Lions Club to only fly the US Flag, the Washington State Flag, and the POW/MIA flag for Flag Day as per RCW 1.20.017, until a policy is adopted by the city.  Councilmember Alred seconded.  Motion carried.  CA Dixon will contact the Lions Club. This will now go to Policy Committee.

 

ALLOW PAYMENT OF BILLS:  Councilmember Sievers MOVED that the bills against the city be allowed.  Councilmember Fielder seconded. Motion carried.

 

The following checks are approved for payment:

Payroll Paid      5/31/2020          Ck. #10881-10896 & EFT           $41,137.23

Claims Paid      6/09/2020          Ck. #10897-10916 & EFT           $20,207.94

 

ADJOURN:  Councilmember Welcome MOVED to adjourn. Councilmember Cooper seconded the motion and the motion carried.  The council meeting adjourned at 8:46 PM.

 

 

 

APPROVED: ________________________________   ATTEST: ________________________________

June 18, 2020

 

DRAFT ONLY.  Without council review or approval.

Palouse City Council

Special Council Meeting

June 18, 2020

Via Zoom Videoconferencing

 

CALL TO ORDERMayor Cook called the Special Council Meeting to order at 7:00 PM

ROLL CALL:  Council members present: Mary Welcome; Bill Slinkard; Tim Sievers; John Snyder; Jim Fielder; Steve Alred; Katie Cooper. Staff present: City Administrator Kyle Dixon

NEW BUSINESS:

Resolution 2020-04 Rescheduling June 23rd City Council Meeting

Whitman County transitioned into Phase 3 of Gov. Inslee’s Safe Start Washington plan earlier this month which allows for gatherings of up to 50 people. Under normal circumstances, city council meetings usually fall within this threshold. However, accounting for the continued social distancing guidelines still in place, city council chambers (city hall) are not large enough to accommodate council meetings. CA Dixon reached out to the Palouse Community Center to inquire about moving the meeting to that venue. Red Cross is sponsoring a blood drive the day of our regularly scheduled council meeting so it would need to be rescheduled if in person meetings were to resume. An additional condition for in person meetings would be the requirement for everyone in attendance to wear facial coverings. This is for everyone’s protection, but especially those at higher risk of complications from COVID-19. As of this evening, Gov Inslee extended 23 proclamations, of which one was the waiver of the OPMA (Open Public Meetings Act) laws and requirements until July 1st. This gives council the ability to continue virtual meetings and/or require additional safety restrictions as a requirement to attend council meetings in the interest of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Council discussed pros and cons of transitioning meeting to the community center on Thursday June 25th versus holding another virtual meeting at the regularly scheduled time. A concern was raised that prior commitments would preclude those wanting to participate in this discussion if the date was changed. Councilmember Welcome proposed the idea of keeping the meeting on the same date and time but moving the location to in-person at the city park. It seems to allow the desired platform for discussions while keeping everyone properly socially distanced. Current weather forecast for next Tuesday in Palouse is 80 degrees and sunny. An additional special meeting for the week after, if needed, was also discussed. CA Dixon read the amended Resolution aloud.

Councilmember Cooper MOVED to approve Resolution 2020-04 relocating the June 23rd regularly scheduled city council meeting to Hayton Greene Memorial City Park. Councilmember Snyder seconded. Councilmember Slinkard will not be voting on this resolution or attending the next council meeting due to potential recent exposure to COVID-19. Motion carried.

CITY ATTORNEY REPORT:

The Policy and Administration Committee met with Atty Hanson earlier this week to begin discussions and continue research into the formal adoption of a flag policy. Atty Hanson reviewed the history of the flags flown on city owned street lights and provided guidance on how the city may craft a flag policy. City property such as parks and sidewalks are considered traditional forms of “Public Forums”, where people are free to express themselves in a manner of their choosing. Alternately, city property such as city-owned buildings or street lights are not considered public forums unless they have been designated as such. By allowing the Lions Club to hang flags on city owned street lights, the city ‘designated’ those street lights as public forums, whether intentional or not. Atty Hanson outlined some options for a flag policy going forward. One option would be to ‘close’ the public forum by addressing it specifically in a policy. The city would then be solely responsible for determining what flags would be hung, and by authorized city personnel. Another option would be to leave the designated public forum ‘open’, whereby a permitting process would be initiated by policy to designate a time, place and manner restriction on what flags would be flown at what times. The city would not be able to regulate content of flags in any form. A third option would be to leave the public forum open without restrictions whereby anything could be posted or hung by anybody at any time. Issues of aesthetics and safety were discussed. City council expressed interest in receiving public comment on this matter prior to adoption of a formal flag policy. Those wishing to speak publicly on the matter would be invited to do so at the next council meeting held at the city park next Tuesday at 7PM. Those wishing to submit written public comment for consideration during the next council meeting may send an email to CA Dixon at cityclerk@palouse.com, or drop it off in person at city hall. Those comments will be read into the city minutes of the next council meeting.

ADJOURN: Councilmember Sievers MOVED to adjourn. Councilmember Welcome seconded the motion and the motion carried. The council meeting adjourned at 8:00 PM.